Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Seven Bowls of Tea - Lu Tong

The first bowl moistens my lips and throat.

The second bowl banishes my loneliness and melancholy.

The third explores the dry rivulets of my soul,

Searching for legends of five thousand scrolls.

With the fourth the pain of past injustice vanishes through my pores.

The fifth bowl purifies my flesh and bones.

The sixth bowl makes me one with the immortal, feathered spirits.

The seventh conveys such pleasure I am overcome,

Feeling only a pure wind rushing beneath my wings.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

I recently purchased the CD Astral Weeks by Van Morrison and so far, I want to claim it for my current life's soundtrack. The first song was enough for me to even say it; here are the lyrics:

Astral Weeks – Van Morrison

If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dream
Where mobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop

Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down in silence easy
To be born again, to be born again

From the far side of the ocean
If I put the wheels in motion
And I stand with my arms behind me
And I'm pushin' on the door

Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down in silence easy
To be born again, to be born again

There you go standin' with the look of avarice
Talkin' to Huddie Ledbetter
Showin' pictures on the wall
Whisperin' in the hall
And pointin' a finger at me

There you go, there you go
Standin' in the sun darlin'
With your arms behind you
And your eyes before
There you go

Takin' care of your boy
Seein' that he's got clean clothes
Puttin' on his little red shoes
I see you know he's got clean clothes

A puttin' on his little red shoes
A pointin' a finger at me
Standing in your sad arrest
Trying to do my very best

Lookin' straight at you
Comin' through, darlin'
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah

If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dreams
Where mobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop

Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down in silence easy
To be born again, to be born again
To be born again, to be born again

In another world, darlin'
In another world
In another time
Got a home on high

Ain't nothing but a stranger in this world
I'm nothing but a stranger in this world
I got a home on high in another land
So far away, so far away

Way up in the heaven, way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven, way up in heaven, oh
In another time, in another place
In another time, in another place

Way up in the heaven
In another time, in another place
In another time, in another place
In another face

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Bear of Brideshead Revisited

I was introduced to the world of Evelyn Waugh through watching the 2008 movie Brideshead Revisited; I was completely swept away by the time period, the prep ivy league men of Oxford and British society as seen through the eyes of a young man in the 1920s. I loved the movie so much that I had to read the book (of which was much better!) and felt satisfied....until I learned of the 1981 mini series of the book starring such greats as Jeremy Irons, Sir Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and many others. A couple of days ago, I found the entire series at a local bookstore and had to purchase it. So far, it reigns supreme over the movie, bearing a close second to the book (of course). So, it was with great mirth that I located an article regarding the fate of Lord Sebastian Flyte's teddy bear, Aloysius. Enjoy the link and happy reading!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New York Times: A Booklover's San Francisco

My publisher, Allan Gilbreath (author of the Galen Vampire novels - Kerlak Publishing), just sent this link to me from the New York Times, which of course made me drool for more books - as if I did not have enough in my library. Click on the title to be sent to the article and Happy Reading!

Tea Taste - Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum Spice Herbal Tea

Ah yes, there is nothing finer than enjoying a cup of hot tea on a cold December night. It really is quite a pleasure. However, it only adds to the experience when one is drinking a particular blend of tea. Tonight, I am having a lovely (and now cold!) cup of Celestial Seasonings’ Sugar Plum Spice Herbal Tea. To be quite honest, I wasn’t too sure as to the taste when I first purchased it but now, after three cups since purchase, I am glad I made the choice. The plum flavour does stand out, along with the cinnamon, hibiscus and cardamom in every cup; I just prepared my second cup for the night since I will be probably be up for some time working on my latest manuscript. Bringing the cup to my nose gives me a chance to savour the flavours and enjoy the quite fragrant aroma before sipping it delicately. Yes, I enjoy my tea just that much. In any case, this is a nice blended holiday tea that will go well with shortbread or by itself; the flavour makes it quite a nice dessert tea. It’s also good to drink at night since it is herbal and no caffeine; you can drink as many cups as you want with no worry of staying up half the night jittery. So, no matter what your religious (if any) background, do yourself a favour and get a box of this tea to enjoy with a good book or with good friends during these cold nights and perhaps the Sugar Plum Faery will stop by for a chat as well.

Happy Cups!

Book Review - Arthas: Rise of the Lich King by Christie Golden

Being a player of World of Warcraft for well over a year now, I feel as though Azeroth has become my second home. During my playing time, I have been a Night Elf priest, a Troll shaman, a Tauren warrior and finally, a female Draenei paladin, a male Blood Elf rogue, a female Blood Elf Death Knight and a male Worgen rogue and a female Goblin mage, thanks to the latest expansion named Cataclysm. Whew! Talk about having multiple personalities. In any case, I felt I owed it to myself to read some of the books associated with the game; after all, as a bibliophile, I have to partake in the book of whatever media/hobby I am currently enjoying. So, when I picked up a used copy of Christie Golden’s Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, I knew I was in for a treat. Arthas Menethil, the crowned prince of Lordaeron, was once a beloved member of royalty and a friend to all. However, thanks to circumstances very much beyond his control and his own refusal to accept his faults and move on, the prince resorts to being driven by vengeance and soon becomes a feared and hated creature beyond all level of comprehension. Because of his own shortsightedness, he becomes the Lich King, a ruler of ice, coldness and the undead known as the Scourge.
Golden shows her ability to tell a good tale as she spins the history of Arthas from his youth to becoming the most evil foe ever to set foot in Azeroth (until Deathwing comes along in Cataclysm). I began reading the book yesterday and, being a lover of all things WoW, I could not put the book down until I finished it only a couple of hours ago tonight. After closing the book, I felt as though I understood Arthas a little more and why he made those choices that ultimately led to his downfall. While reading reviews of this book on Amazon,com, I read one reviewer who claimed to compare Arthas the Anakin Skywalker. In my own opinion, I found that, while they did share similarities, they were quite different. Both were destined to be a force greater than what was known in their respective worlds. Both were loved by all. Both gave into their own faults and feelings of guilt. However, while Anakin made his choices in order to save everyone, Arthas made his choices to seek revenge on the one who had done his people harm. Also, Arthas willingly went to evil while Anakin truly thought he was on the side of the true good for all. When Anakin was dying in his son’s arms, he asked for redemption and forgiveness for all of the things he did. Arthas killed off the last piece of humanity he had left inside of him; he wanted nothing to stand in his way of becoming more and more powerful against his foes in Azeroth. There is no redemption in him, only a coldness that can never be warmed again. Now that I have finished reading my first sample of Golden’s work, I can’t wait to dig into her newest Warcraft novel, The Shattering, a novel that explains the events leading up to Cataclysm and the return of Deathwing. FOR THE HORDE!

75 Signs That You Might Be a Bibliophile

A funny list for all those who love the written word as much as I. Enjoy and yes, I have actually done #61!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Twas the Night Before CATACLYSM - As Told By A WoW Fan

Twas the night before CATACLYSM
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a Plaguelands louse!

Alliance and Horde stockings
Hung by the fire with care
In hopes that St. Blizzard
Would soon be there.

When all of a sudden
There rose such a clatter
I dropped my dwarven ale
To see what was the matter!

It was dark outside in Stormwind
For everyone had gone to bed
Or out celebrating a latest raid
With severed Orc heads.

I then heard loud noises
From the sky coloured in night
I raced out of my warm home
To see what caused the fright!

Golden griffons flew over my head
While their masters rode with pride
Soon, there appeared a large black shape
That glowed red from the inside!

A large black dragon with glowing eyes
Flew around everything
My heart leaped to my throat:
The dreaded Deathwing!

For years, stories ran through the lands
Tales great and small
Of how this overstuffed lizard
Wanted to conquer all.

However, the Alliance and Horde
Wanted none of his ways
We wanted to continue our senseless battles
Ah yes, such glory days!

So, as I looked into the night
Watching him fly so lazily
I wondered if I had time to pack
And move to Shattrath City!

Merry Cataclysm, EVERYONE!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book Review - Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

Herman Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf is more than just a simple story within a story of a man and his travels read by a young man who discovers his manuscript. It tells of a man coming to grips with his humanity and that of the Beast Within while also understanding that the two sides have many layers. The Man is a purveyor of knowledge, arts and culture. He is the one that lives under the sun, a creature of the day. However, the Steppenwolf, or Wolf of the Steppes, is a savage of the night who takes said knowledge from the man and pushes the envelope in pursuing the extremes. The wolf understands the true ways of the world and is made stronger by it. He is not afraid to live while the man is not afraid to die. Therein lies the paradox of the Steppenwolf, or Harry Haller as he is so named in the novel. He seeks for a release of his pain so gained from his increasing knowledge of the world and realizes that he cannot do it. He cannot kill himself for the wolf will not allow him to commit such an act of cowardice. It is when he is at his most desperate to die that he meets a young woman named Hermine. She represents everything that he is with an extra component – she does not fear what she has gained in life. Rather than dwell upon the pessimistic, she revels in the good Life has to offer her. From this initial meeting the two become closer than friends and lovers as Hermine shows Harry a better way to handle his knowledge of Life; she teaches him how to dance the fox trot, carry on a passionate affair with a woman and seek pleasure in its many forms. However, the Steppenwolf learns his greatest lesson after a masquerade ball when his new musician friend Pablo invites him to spend some time in his Magic Theater – For Madmen Only. The Magic Theater shows him his life in various ways, reveals hidden fears and secrets and situations that cause him to take action, resulting in the unveiling of the greatest lesson learned for the Steppenwolf. The unexpected ending was quite a surprise for me; I had to read it three times just to make sure I fully understood what had happened to him. Cruel clarity was the end but the price was high.
At times, I felt as though this novel within a novel had actually occurred; the pain felt by the Steppenwolf felt too real to be simply imagined. The questions he poses regarding Life I have had from time to time; when one begins to see the world for what it truly is, that knowledge comes at a heavy price. When one discovers such knowledge, do they wish to return to their world of before? Or, do they realize that once they make their choice, they can never go back? Once again, I found myself asking those questions and applying them to my own life; I had recently undergone several major changes in my life and I felt, and still feel, quite vulnerable and relieved at the same time. One of the changes was my interest and study of Taoism, the Watercourse Way. With Taoism, I learned to accept the moment for what it was and to not look back at the past nor dread the unknown future. I was to simply live and enjoy the present. However, with my new knowledge I used to wonder if perhaps it would be better to simply forget and meld back within the folds of the masses rather than stand out as an individual and live this new life. As a friend once told me, dying is easy. It’s living that is hard. I couldn’t have agreed with him more, for in my and the Steppenwolf’s life, dying from one life to be reborn into a new one is one of the hardest things to do. However, as he and I both learned, once you take that step, it does get easier, especially if the chains of the past are no longer wrapped around the body, ready to drag it down. With my own life changes, I too became a Steppenwolf and embraced my many sides while acknowledging that the process would be hard and full of dismay and fear. The new life would also be filled with joy, clarity and understanding. For that, like Harry in the end, I was willing to pay the price and was glad to do so.

Movie Review - The Talented Mr. Ripley

Money. Power. Blue blood. Murder. Deception. Manipulation. These are a few words that come to mind whenever I watch the film The Talented Mr. Ripley, based on the book of the same name by Patricia Highsmith. Usually, I will read a book first and then watch the movie to compare and contrast all the while thinking that the book will most assuredly be better than the movie. However, this movie is rare: it is just as good as the book (recently read the book after having loved the movie for years) due to excellent direction and a stellar cast of actors that give it their all during such a performance. Matt Damon plays the title role, Thomas Ripley: a young nobody whom, through luck and sheer chance, is swept up in a world he’d only dreamt of – the world of the wealthy elite. He is asked by shipping entrepreneur Richard Greenleaf to travel to Italy and get his playboy son and jazz lover, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), to return home and assume the role of a shipping executive. However, once Ripley arrives in Italy, thanks to funds generously given by Mr. Greenleaf, he finds that Dickie represents everything he’d ever wanted in life: power, money, elitism and escape from his own dreary existence. He soon befriends Dickie and his girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow) and begins to live the good life. Of course, Ripley has no intentions of returning to Italy with Dickie in tow; Ripley has no intentions of leaving Dickie’s side until Dickie’s friend, Freddie Miles (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) begins to question Ripley’s motives and just why there appears to be quite an “unnatural” attraction held by Ripley towards Dickie. Even Dickie begins to tire of Ripley and his naiveté when an Italian woman Dickie has an affair with is found drowned in a body of water nearby. She was pregnant with Dickie’s child and when Dickie refused to assist her, she killed herself. Ripley, owing more than his life to Dickie, offers to take the blame if the matter ever came up, leading Dickie to realize just whom he is dealing with.
Several days later while on a boat, Dickie confronts Ripley and lets him know just how annoying he truly is; Ripley retaliates, claiming that Dickie is nothing more than a spoiled brat who doesn’t know what he wants in life and soon the two fight, leading to Ripley attacking and finally killing Dickie with an oar. Now the fun begins as Ripley takes over Dickie’s life, assuming his name and everything that comes with it. Soon, the web of intrigue grows, leading to another murder – the death of Freddie when Ripley fears that Freddie has figured out what happened with Dickie. Marge, on the other hand, grows from slightly concerned to paranoid as she unintentionally feeds from Ripley’s lies as to the location of Dickie. She soon realizes that Ripley is not as innocent as he has claimed to be all this time but unfortunately, she is powerless to stop him. To make matters even more complicated, Ripley must assume Dickie’s identity whenever he is around Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett), another member of the wealthy elite; he introduces himself as Dickie to her when he first meets her after shortly arriving in Italy. Finally, we must not forget the character of Peter Smith-Kingsley (Jack Davenport), a music composer and friend of Marge Sherwood who expresses subtly a romantic interest in Ripley. Lies are told, secrets are being created right before our very eyes, bodies are piling up and in the very sorrowful but necessary end, we understand that Ripley can and will get away with it all. Set against the backdrop of 1950s Italy combined with a killer jazz soundtrack, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a classic that will live for the years to come.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Dinner with Verlaine, the Absinthe Faery

My Dinner with Verlaine, The Absinthe Fairy
9pm, 4 December 2010
While watching The Triplets of Belleville

I have always been a lover of the history and mystery behind absinthe. So many writers, artists and other creatives have enjoyed the liquor with a special wish and hope that the Green Faery would visit them. So it was with my own curiosity that I purchased a small bottle of Grand Absente, Absinthe Originale. Vincent Van Gogh, one of my favourite artists, enjoyed this particular blend.

While watching the movie The Triplets of Belleville, I prepared my first glass of absinthe to enjoy while the French movie played on. What I did not expect, however, was that I would receive a visitor. In the solitude of my own home, I was honoured to have the Green Fairy herself visit me. At first, I was taken aback by her sudden appearance but I swallowed my shock and instead did something no one had ever done: I interviewed her. So, following this introduction is my interview with the Green Fairy.

My Dinner with Verlaine, the Absinthe Faery.

Wow! After starting the movie, I prepared my fist glass of absinthe (see photos) and took a sip. The intense flavour almost threw me back somewhat; it burned my lips and went down my throat with quite a kick. The star anise flavour lingered around in my mouth for some time and I smiled while the taste finally dissolved into my stomach. A couple of sips later and I felt like I had been drinking it all of my life.

When I prepared my glass for a second time, I heard a small cough to my right. Glancing over with the glass raised to my lips, I saw a woman dressed in a long green and simple cut dress that accentuated her sea foam greenish skin and spinach green hair that flowed down her back in a simple braid. Her dark coloured eyes stared at me while a simple smile played on her mouth as I strangely shrugged my shoulders and took another sip.

She asked me if I knew who she was and I nodded. You’re the Green Fairy, I said in a nonchalant tone that was in direct contrast to my fluttering stomach. Here she was, a legend and myth, in my apartment with me! I finished off my glass and placed it on the coffee table then asked her if she wanted anything to drink. She cocked her head to the side in a quizzical manner, as if no one had ever asked her that question.

Well, rather than go on with the narrative, I will instead give you the dialogue. Enjoy!

Me: So…you’re the Green Faery, huh? Wow, I never thought….

Verlaine: Never thought what? That I was real? Oh my dear, I am very much real. I am real because of the world and their belief in me. That and I refuse to go away.

Me: Huh. So, seeing as how you’re in my apartment, would you like something to drink?

V: Actually, I would love a glass of water.

Me: (goes to kitchen, gets glass then give it to her)

V: (drinks it down in one gulp then places glass on table) You know, I’ve never had anyone ever offer me something to drink. Ah yes, another reason why I’m glad I came to you.

Me: Well….thanks. So, do you have a name or do I just call you Green Faery?

V: (laughs) Actually, please call me Verlaine. That will suit me for tonight.

Me: All right, Verlaine it is, then…..hey, I’ve got a really cool idea: do you mind if I write down this conversation? I don’t people would believe me if I just told them I talked with the Green Fairy.

V: (laughs) Sure, why not? Huh, I’ve never been interviewed either.

Me: Well, it looks as thought this will be a night for a lot of firsts. Cool. Actually, do you mind if I prepare another glass?

V: Be my guest; I’m already here.

Me: (prepares third glass to calm me down) Okay, so I gotta ask; what was it like being around Van Gogh? He’s one of my favourite artist! In fact-

V: You’re drinking the version of absinthe he drank. (sigh). Yes, he was quite a man. Very disturbed. Do you know he actually asked me if giving a piece of his ear to a woman as a gift was a good idea?

Me: Really? Well, we all know he did it but what did you tell him?

V: I told him to close his eyes when he did it. (silence as I stared at her in shock) What? Did you expect me to be sympathetic to him? He was a loony, for goodness sake! He was going to do it anyway; seeing me gave him just enough courage to do it and not chicken out.

Me: Huh. Uh, okay, wow, what does one say to that?

V: How about asking me another question? (grinning while showing very pointed teeth)

Me: (preparing another glass to help numb myself) Uh, so, well, tell me about some other creatives you’ve known and talked to.

V: Well, my dear, I didn’t exactly talk to them, just merely showed up, they announced their great “plan” and I gave them enough courage to actually go through with it…..even commit suicide.

Me: (shudder) Wow.

V: Wow exactly.

Me: My tongue feels slightly numb.

V: (laughing) You’ll get used to it. Trust me.

Me: (coughing) Okay, so tell me about Toulouse-Lautrec?

V: Oh, him? But why? He was short. Painted very pretty pictures. He was creative; in short, ha!, he was disturbed. Enough said. Actually, I think that sums up most of the people I have visited in my time.

Me: Actually, speaking of time, just how long have you been around?

V: Dunno; how long have people wanted to believe in the supernatural? How long have people wanted to believe in faeries? Which, by the way, my dear, do you realize you’re-

Me: Yes, well, we’re talking about you right now (coughing) So, you’ve been around that long huh?

V: As long as I can remember, I have been around for quite some time. I have been called by many names and have had many faces. This one is my most current. I like it, actually. Stole it from Paul Verlaine, one of my favourites. (playing with dress). What do you think of the dress? Stole it from a dryad one night when she was out with some satyr for a tryst.

Me: (fingering the dress – felt like very delicate leaves) Very nice, Verlaine. Dryad, huh?

V: Not too bright dryad. When no one calls upon me or I don’t feel like visiting humans, I spend time in my own world. The world of faeries, elves, dumb dryads, you name it. When people dream, they visit my world but they always forget it the next day. However, creatives remember what they have seen and experienced and use them to create stories, novels, poems, paintings, you name it. I like returning home whenever I’ve spent too much time around humans; it helps me clear my head.

Me: Well, that’s cool.

V: (looking at me in silence for several minutes) You know, I’m glad I came to you tonight. You’re the first person ever to talk to me and ask me about my life. You’re not trying to get me to help you with something; you just want to talk.

Me: (nodding head) Uh huh but my tongue is really numb right now.

V: (laughing)

Me: So, what do you do to relax, aside from going home to your supernatural world?

V: Well, don’t laugh, but I love tinkering around in my garden at home, reading books from both my world and yours, love Charles deLint by the way, mainly because he’s visited my world many times both knowing and not knowing, and I’m an excellent cook. Love trying out new recipes whenever I can or whenever someone gives me one to try out. D’you know I tried making quiche for the first time last week? Wow, loaded with calories but oh so good.

Me: I actually wanted to try to make that myself this weekend (grin).

V: I love a good plate of pasta with sauce created with ingredients from my own garden. Sometimes, I have to worry about sneaky pixies stealing my tomatoes. Don’t know why they love damn tomatoes but whatever. Damn pixies. Hey, do you mind if I get myself another glass of water?

Me: (tongue and mouth now slightly numb, waving hand towards her to go ahead)

V: (gets another glass of water then sits down in living room again; takes long sip) Ah, nothing is finer than a glass of water. So, are you feeling the effects yet? (looking at my slightly red and relaxed face) Huh, it looks like you are. Well, do you have several more minutes to talk?

Me: (nodding) Well, I do have one last question: are you with anyone?

V: (arched eyebrow) With anyone? Oh, you mean dating? Well….(blushing somewhat) I AM kinda of seeing someone right now. I will say this: he’s in the place humans don’t want to go to when they’ve been bad.

Me: (shocked look) Wait, you’re dating a demon?! A freakin’ demon?!

V: Well, he loves to give me fire flowers and he’s quite the (cough) stallion in bed so-

Me: (blushing) Okay, okay, I get it! Well, as long as you guys are happy, then…I guess.

V: (Looking at me carefully) My dear, I think you’ve had enough. You’re starting to turn into a colour close to my own. So, I shall bid you adieu until next time…and by the way, I’ll tell you my real name. That way, if you would ever like some company, just say my name and I’ll be here (whispers my name – sorry can’t tell you what she said!)

Me: Thanks so much for talking with me.

V: Thanks for wanting to talk to me. (slowly disappearing) By the way, loved your books and can’t wait for the next three to come! I already know the titles – he told me…… (disappears)

So, there you have it. My first conversation with Verlaine. Mind you, it was quite exciting, fascinating, scary and all around wonderful. It made such an impact on me that I wanted to share it with everyone.

When or if you drink absinthe for the first or next time, tell Verlaine hello for me and that her secret name is still safe.

Bon soir, mes amis.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I am one of 10,000....who Killed Amanda Palmer

After weeks of waiting, I finally received my copy of the book Who Killed Amanda Palmer. The book consists of photos of Palmer in various stages of death, murder, fatal accidents, and other moments that cut her life way too short. Add in stories written by Neil Gaiman and you've got a book that, frankly, is sheer genius. If you enjoy things that lay way, way outside of the box, then you need to purchase a copy of the book and her same titled CD as well. Kudos to A. Palmer and N. Gaiman for creating a work that will be remembered for quite some time. I know I will.

Are You A Nerd Or A Geek....according to CNN

Nerd. Geek. Two words that, years ago, meant days of endless torture and wedgies, especially if you claimed to be either. Now, those days are gone as the nerds and geeks of the world are "popular".

CNN wrote a delightfully funny and informative article regarding the history of the words and what they mean today. Check out the article and ask yourself the question: are you a nerd or a geek? I claim to be both and proud of it too!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tea Taste - TAZO Calm Tea....and HONEY

I recently had two fillings in the lower left part of my mouth re-filled the other day, leaving me, at first, quite numb and unable to talk due to shooting pain that left me quite speechless. I spent most of my night after the event pacing my apartment while holding my jaw and moaning in agony. Not even watching The Talented Mr. Ripley, one of my favourite movies, could calm me down…except for a cup of chamomile tea with both fresh honey and a piece of the comb in the jar. Ever since my publisher introduced me to the ways of the honey with my tea, I have turned away from my old friend granulated sugar. The only time when I will use sugar, however, is when I have a cup of the King of Teas, Earl Grey. Every other tea that I drink now is flavoured with honey. Honey, as I have learned, enhances whatever flavour the tea possesses rather than just sweeten it up like sugar. Honey adds a subtle yet not overpowering flavour to the tea, blending in quite nicely for the taste buds to savour and enjoy. So, on the night of intense pain and watching Tom Ripley assume the guise of Dickie Greenleaf and live the rich lifestyle, I prepared a cup of TAZO Calm tea with a spoonful of honey and piece of honeycomb that later melted and created a decent waxy addition to the already delicious cup. For the record, TAZO Calm tea is by far one of the better chamomile blends out there; rather than just straight chamomile tea for a quiet end to a hectic day, Calm has quite the blend of other herbs along with chamomile to produce quite a fragrant cup while doing the job of creating such a peaceful moment. Thankfully the tea laced with honey did the trick and soon, I was in my bed fast asleep with a not so throbbing mouth that soon dissipated in pain.

Happy Cups!

Book Review - In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway

It is with great satisfaction that I return to the works of Ernest Hemingway. He is one of the reasons why I love to read so much as well as one of the reasons why I am an author. In Our Time, a collection of short stories, proves to be Hemingway at his finest while being such a slim work. Included in this collection are stories regarding a young man named Nick Adams, tales of World War I, the gory spectacle of bullfighting and other tales of a random nature. Yet, each story is packed with such quiet grace and charm that one cannot help but be moved by Hemingway’s words. Who else can describe a man fishing in a river with such feeling and emotion that one feels as though they are either the man or the fish? Who else can tell of a dying bull with such simple descriptive words and yet give the reader more than they asked for? In my own experience with Hemingway, I noticed that he wrote with a down to earth flair, stories for the common person who could appreciate reading poetry one night then go hiking on a forest trail the next or go on safari in Africa. His words are a quiet rumble, a slow and graceful building towards a conclusion that is a slight wavering of whatever emotion just happened to be portrayed in the story.
In Our Time tells tales of ordinary men and some women who live their lives day to day, not ever knowing what to expect from the world or from within. Nick Adams is an all around man of America: he fishes, loves girls and can eat ham sandwiches with hobos and insane folks. It is through this character that one can get a glimpse of Hemingway and what he experienced and lived through his own life. Nick has his faults but we can forgive them; after all, he is a man. Although I enjoyed the entire work, my favourite story is Soldier’s Home, in which a young man returns from the Great War to live with his family in a listless and uninspired fashion. His parents, however, want him to become a productive member of society and put the thoughts of war behind him. However, it is because of those memories that he is a member of society with no label. He is the face of the Great War, of young men who gave up their lives for their country. That story, without a doubt, touched me greatly for its honesty of those who were able to come home. I had put off reading In Our Time for months, always choosing something else to devour and read. However, when I read the first lines, I was glad to visit my old friend again:

The strange thing was, he said, how they screamed every night at midnight. I do not know why they screamed at that time. We were in the harbor and they were all on the pier and at midnight they started screaming. We used to turn the searchlight on them to quiet them. That always did the trick.

Yes, Mr. Hemingway, it certainly did the trick.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tea Taste - Celestial Seasonings' Sleepytime Herbal Tea/Day of the Dead

Today is the Day of the Dead. 10:18pm, Central Standard Time. While I am typing this, I am listening to Herbie Hancock’s Empyrean Isles CD and thinking of my granddad who passed away this July. He was the jazz fanatic in our family and it was because of him that I am a lover of jazz music. He used to play his records for me when I was little and I learned all about Miles Davis, John Coltrane and others while my granddad told me stories of a world not too long ago but understandably not forgotten in his lifetime. Because of today being what it is, I had a cup of Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Herbal Tea with wild honey in honour of my granddad. Sleepytime Herbal Tea, for those of you who don’t know, is a good way to get sleep. One cup of the herbal brew and you are asleep an hour later, thanks to the ingredients of spearmint, chamomile, West Indian lemongrass and other herbs that blend so well together and create a taste that is soothing and relaxing. In short, it’s a great way to end the day. I raised the hot cup and toasted him well, hoping that he is no longer in pain and that he is jamming away with Miles, John Coltrane, Lena Horne, Cannonball Adderley and others. Now that Autumn is in full swing here, having a good cup of tea at night is such a moment of simple bliss. Tonight is no exception.
So, here’s to you, granddad. I raise my cup to you and smile, knowing that you’ll always be with me.

Happy Cups!

Book Review- Symptomatic by Danzy Senna

Danzy Senna, author of the book Caucasia, pulls out all the stops in her novel Symptomatic. Not only do we have a novel that is quite representative of the psychological thriller but there is also an element of racial concerns that actually blends itself well within the tale. The narrator of the story is a young biracial woman from California who moves to NYC for a job who begins the tale with moving in with her somewhat boyfriend, Andrew, in order to escape her room at a boarding house. After meeting his friends at a party one night and finding out that they are racist when they begin making fun of maintenance people from their prep school and black people they see on TV, she moves out of his place and discovers an abandoned apartment through a co-worker named Greta Hicks who is also biracial. However, Greta is not all that she appears to be and in the shocking end, the reader learns just how far some people will go in order to deny who and what they truly are.
Through the eyes of the narrator, the reader is subjected to not only the slow downward spiral of events regarding her new apartment, but also her life as a biracial woman and how having a foot in both the black and white world is quite a precarious matter. At times, the narrator appears to be white while other times she appears to be black. She is a chameleon of sorts until the reader learns that not even she knows who she is. Senna spends quite a bit of time explaining the background of the narrator and why she is such a distant person who is quite impossible to love anyone and be loved by anyone. Her family was quite eccentric and seemed to love on a random basis, while she drifted along the currents like a piece of driftwood. When Greta comes along in her life, a fellow biracial person seeking like with supposedly like minds, the narrator does make a halfhearted attempt to befriend the lonely older woman, only to retreat quickly when Greta begins to show signs that all is not well in her own life.
This was my first time reading Senna and for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed the slim novel. When a writer can grab my attention and make me flip through pages at a rapid pace, then that is a good trait to have. Her voice through the words seemed as though I was with the narrator watching the events unfold before her. After reading the first chapter, I immediately checked the Internet to find out more about Ms. Senna, hoping to learn as much as I could from one writer to another. What I discovered was that others who had read her work felt the same way; her voice was fresh, new and quite unique given her background and the topics she has written about. My admiration for Senna goes beyond literary; to talk of racial matters without browbeating it into the ground is a welcoming breath of fresh air. Senna has the charm to reveal such a world without overdoing it and for that, I tip my hat to her in sincere admiration.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book Review - The Collector by John Fowles

Reading the novel The Collector by John Fowles was my first foray into his works and I could not have chosen a better beginning point. Although Fowles is known for his novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman, his first novel was The Collector. It’s a simple story, really: a young clerk wins some money and is soon financially independent of his family. He purchases a house and decides to kidnap the object of his hidden affections, a lovely art student named Miranda, in the hopes of her eventually returning his love. From this intent the book is divided between the voices and perspectives of narrator/kidnapper Frederick and the victim Miranda; each presents their own side to an intense situation that has no happy ending. Frederick seriously believes that, given time, Miranda will come around and love him just as much as he loves and worships her. Miranda’s side, however, reveals a woman that has no intention of doing just that and in fact is not the goddess Frederick claims her to be. She is a woman on the brink of discovering just who and what she is and the power she has once she figures it out. She loves and despises, hates and adores, and all of it is not completely for her captor. As Frederick claims he has found his ultimate addition to his “collection” of butterflies and other beautiful creatures, Miranda comes into her true self and it is ugly, selfish and crass with a dash of passion and of the erotic tendencies that drives to consume a young woman.
Frederick is a man who is not human. He exists from day to day, not truly living and not truly seeing the world in its correct light but in a skewed and narrow-minded way. His family is of the nagging and controlling sort, not realizing just how much of a part they had to play in his role as a young man. When he sees Miranda for the first time, he is struck by her beauty and grace while already placing her on a pedestal that, as we find out later, she does not truly deserve. Even when Miranda is in his house, his love for her is from a comfortable enough distance that he does not have to sully his hands with the flesh that is woman; when Miranda offers herself to him sexually, he is a complete loss in creating the “beast with two backs” with her. Although he committed a heinous act, I could not help but feel sorry for him for he showed a sense of childlike innocence that clouded his judgment. In his world, all beauty must be collected and preserved so that the collector can enjoy them forever. Only where does one draw the line? When does love become obsession? When does love become dangerous? From the two points of view in the novel, it is apparent that this situation is not a matter of love but a game of cat and mouse that, sadly to say, ends with death. A butterfly loses its life when the collector pins it to a board so that is beauty can be maintained forever. Therein lies the powerful delusion, especially when the butterfly is not beautiful nor wants to be captured and mounted for the collector’s pleasure. The butterfly has no say in its capture; all is can do it weakly flap its wings as Death takes over.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Review of Snow Geisha® White Tea

Originally submitted at Teavana

Chinese white tea combines deliciously with sour cherries and candied cranberries to create an exotic, yet delicate blend.

Delightfully Fragrant

By Viridian Girl from Memphis, Tennessee on 10/9/2010


5out of 5

Tea Body: Medium

Tea Finish: Smooth

Tea Flavor: Fruity

Pros: Fresh, Soothing, Smooth Body, Unique Flavor Profile, Great Aroma, Rich In Antioxidants, High Quality

Cons: Prefer Tea Pouches

Best Uses: Afternoon, Evening, Dessert Tea

Describe Yourself: Tea Enthusiast, Occasional Tea Drinker, High-End Shopper, Health Conscious

This was my first Teavana purchase in several years and I am glad I chose this blend: the flavour is to die for. Although I drink my tea with raw sugar, I would gladly drink this tea without any sweetener. Most of the white teas by other companies are so "light" that one can hardly enjoy them but this tea has a good body to it and a flavour that lingers quite nicely. This is a tea that I will purchase again very soon. Cheers!

My Snow Geisha with cast iron cup and saucer


Tags: Using Product, Made with Product, Picture of Product


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tea Taste - Bigelow Earl Grey Tea

Tea Taste: Bigelow Tea’s Earl Grey

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

Those famous words spoken by Enterprise captain Jean Luc Picard are now legendary to not only Star Trek fans but to also those who enjoy a good cuppa. For me, however, I am of both camps, hence the need to begin this review with that quote for Earl Grey is by far one of my all time favourite teas. Ever. Funny how a simple black tea with bergamot can make such a difference to one’s palate, especially when that palate has tried as many teas as I have. But every so often, I have to come back to my Ol’ Faithful, my “steady rock” of teas, just to give my taste buds a pleasing rest from all of the other blends out there.

However, just because I love Earl Grey does not mean that all Earl Grey blends are the same. Oh no. There are some blends out there that have a very light bergamot flavour to the tea, and while some people may enjoy that, I personally do not. To me, in order for your cuppa to be a good cuppa of Earl Grey, the bergamot must stand out in the cup without being too overpowering. That’s why I truly do enjoy Bigelow's Earl Grey Tea. Every time I open a bag, I can’t help but sniff it just so I can get a good whiff of the bergamot before placing it in my cup filled with hot water and sugar. Bigelow’s blend is also good with a good amount of sugar but not so much that all you taste is SWEET. The tea can be enjoyed at all times of the day and night without too much concern as to being buzzed all night long.

While checking my tea inventory tonight, I noticed that I only had two bags left. Not good. Although I just purchased three new boxes of tea (all will be reviewed on a later date!) I know that my apartment must have another box of Bigelow Earl Grey. I shall savour my two remaining bags until Thursday but I know they will be gone by then (grin).

Am I an elitist when it comes to my tea? Absolutely. I want the finest, the best tasting tea in my cups; anything else is just coloured hot water. So, I tip my bowler hat to Bigelow Tea for making such an excellent product. Don’t ever change it.

Rating: A+

Happy Cups!

Book Review - The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan

Meet Peter. Peter is a young boy with a sister and parents who live in England but the realm of normalcy stops right there, for he lives purely within his vivid and wildly colourful imagination. Author Ian McEwan does a spectacular job of creating the ultimate daydreamer in his book The Daydreamer, in which the whole novel is broken down into “stories” of Peter’s adventures within his own mind and the end result of coming back to reality. None of the daydreams are dark and unpleasant but rather wistful and adventurous. His adventures range from doing battle with a mangled doll over his new bedroom, changing places with the family cat, setting up traps for burglars in his house, overcoming a bully with only his mind, discovering vanishing cream, exploring the world of his aunt’s baby and finally understanding what it truly means to be a grownup. Each story blends into the next with an ease that only McEwan can handle and with each story the readers gets a better and more developed picture of Peter’s life. He does no harm to anyone, loves his parents and sister (although barely at times) and has a better grasp of the world than most of the adults living in it. When he finally daydreams of himself being an adult, one must wonder if in fact he was dreaming at all and in fact the reverse: that Peter, as a man, was dreaming of his life as a child. That answer shall be left up to the readers for there is no right answer, only one’s own.
Although this is a book mostly intended for children, McEwan’s highly prolific style is still apparent and one can see the similarities between this novel and his more serious works such as Atonement, Enduring Love and Saturday. Even though this is a novel for children, this is a novel for children written by Ian McEwan. No other author rivals his usage and command of the English language. When I read this book, I thought of my own childhood and the times when I used to daydream about anything and everything under the sun. My mind wandered to all corners of the planet and when it finally came back home to my body, the results were rewarding. How many of us daydream now or have we lost it in exchange for adulthood? How many of us now take the time to stare at clouds in the sky, or watch an art crawl along the ground, or even stare out at a body of water and wonder what might live under there? And, my final question to you: what’s stopping you now?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Book Review - Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

When I finished reading the novel Anna Karenina several days ago, I wanted to go back to the beginning and read it all over again. Very few novels have that kind of effect on me. When I began Anna Karenina several weeks ago, I allowed the size of the book to lower my expectations and therefore, somewhat diminish my appreciation for the piece of classic literature. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good thick book from time to time but this one, I thought, would prove to be quite a challenge. Strangely enough, when I read the book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich many years ago for fun, I thoroughly enjoyed it and did not care about the page count. This was also my second dive into Russian Literature; my first was Crime and Punishment and I loved every word of it. However once I began reading Tolstoy’s words about a woman and her lover, I was immediately hooked until the very last page. Normally, when I write book reviews, I tend to focus on the plot of the writing style of the author. However, since several of the characters were so memorable to me, and will be for a very long time, I wanted to use this review to focus on them instead.

Anna, the main tragic character, is a victim of Russian society and the ideals created and choked by it. Once at the height of society, she falls to a position of loathing and exiled outcast to which she can never recover from. Because she chooses to love for the very first time, she is condemned for it and never regains even a modicum of her earlier dull life. It is due to this ultimate choice that she slowly goes mad with grief and jealousy, forcing her to make a choice in relieving herself from the pain she endured on a daily basis. Even her death was viewed as base and common, words that were not used to describe her when she was a part of the same society that later treated her worse than a leper. Her marriage was nothing more than a sham, created purely for the sake of appearances and even when she makes the choice to leave, the husband suggests continuing with the façade so as to keep up the “act” for the good of all. Yet, even during such turmoil, one cannot help but fall in love with her bewitching looks, charm and grace of all to be expected of an upper class Russian lady. She was the epitome of grace and beauty, even as a fallen woman, and that was what I think fueled most of the hatred spewed upon her by those in society. They saw her as a woman who broke free from the restraints set by society, caring for herself and her life rather than the lives of others. With that choice, however, came a price that could only be paid in blood.

Vronsky, Anna’s suitor and the object of both her love and jealousy, is a man, at first, with little morals. He tosses aside the sweet and innocent Kitty (an act that later turned out for her benefit) in order to pursue Anna, forcing her to choose between himself and a husband that clearly does not love her but does care for her in his own slightly aloof way. In the beginning, Vronsky cares for no one but himself; even his mother is a recipient of his heavily laden sarcasm. Yet, once he falls for Anna, everything changes. He spends his time loving her and giving her what she lacked in her marriage. I will admit that I found myself hating Vronsky for what he did to Anna, although she did make up her own mind in loving him and leaving her husband. I hated the fact that while Vronsky could still function somewhat in Russian society, Anna could not simply because she was a woman and a fallen one at that. However, I had to remind myself to not place this novel in the year 2010 but rather when it was written and that women were seen as something quite different than as they are now. Women were seen as second-class citizens with no voice in a society ruled by men; such was the way of the world. Yet, even amidst the anguish Anna suffered, I felt myself feeling somewhat sympathetic towards Vronsky when Anna’s anguish turned into hatred and jealousy towards him. She felt him to be untrustworthy, thinking that every time he left her in their home that he was off with another woman. Vronsky, for all of his faults, clearly did love Anna and was crushed when he learned of her suicide. What a pity that his constant but ineffective words of love were not enough to keep her from jumping on the train tracks. Because of my change of heart towards him, one of the plants in my apartment is now named Vronsky and I do give it much love and attention.

Although there were other characters with the novel that were, like Anna and Vronsky, subjects of change, the last one I wanted to mention was Levin. Levin reminded me of the intellectual during this period of time: brooding, self absorbed, aloof, yet somewhat timid, naïve and tragic at times. It seemed as though the weight of several worlds hung heavily on him and he accepted it with much complaint. In the beginning, he loved Kitty but she refused him since her heart was thrown at Vronsky, who later walked away from her to pursue something more of his speed. After that rejection he spirals into a cloud of darkness while returning to his home in the country, working with his peasants out in the fields and suddenly gaining a new found respect for their simple yet profound lives. It is during this moment that the reader begins to see a glimpse of a change within Levin, a change that will ultimately be for the better. However, his mood swings, dissolving any immediate hope for a better outlook of life. Later in the novel, he sees Kitty again and this time Kitty confesses to him that she loves him; he was true to her in his naïve but solid love while Vronsky proved to be a rogue and scoundrel in her eyes. They marry and soon, Levin is somewhat happier. Or is he? The emotions flow back and forth again with moments of clarity and muddy despair but still he trudges on. He even meets Anna and Vronsky and is somewhat charmed by Vronsky while momentarily bewitched by Anna, an effect that she confesses to doing since she feels that Vronsky no longer loves her.

He also tries to fit in with the men of Moscow’s upper class after he and his wife move there and soon finds them nothing more than a bunch of lazy men who drink, smoke heavily, gamble, seek the company of other women, and produce much effort but little result. This thought sickens him and soon they return to the countryside. However, it is at the very end that the readers see the ultimate change occur; Levin, while surrounded by Nature, realizes just how much he has taken for granted. That, although he does not claim to be a Christian, he understands the message the religion is trying to convey to mankind. He also realizes that other religions may have different paths but the destination is quite the same as Christianity. Then comes the final moment: he realizes, in the midst of it all, that while he may still have a short temper, while his wife may do something wrong and he may fault her for it then later apologize, that while he may still have a bleak outlook on life, he must accept the world for what it is and understand that only he can provide happiness in his life. When I read those final words, I immediately thought of some of the Taoist books I read a couple of months ago; one must be like the flow of water to get the most out of life. When one fights and struggles the entire time, much energy is wasted on the futile and soon, nothing is gained. However, if one goes in the direction the river takes them, their lives are soon free from obstacles, leading them to a better and more enriched life. This what was I thought Levin felt at the end; he was, by far, the most changed character of the novel with the greatest lesson learned.

So, with all of that, I will be blunt: buy a copy of Anna Karenina soon and read it. If you have already read it once, then I suggest you read it again. This is a novel that will still carry the same messages for me with every new reading of it, messages that, honestly, I will never get tired of taking into my own life.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tea Taste - Lipton Green Tea with White Mangosteen and Peach

I can’t decide what to do tonight: shall I read more of my latest book, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, or shall I work on my latest manuscripts? Tough choices, but I was able to play a bit of World of Warcraft earlier. I never get tired of that game. Since it is now 9:45pm, I might go back to Azeroth and kill some more ogres. A paladin’s work is never done, especially when you are a level 44 Draenei paladin with very cool armor. And, while playing my game, I will have a cup of Lipton Superfruit Green Tea with White Mangosteen and Peach. Wow.

Okay, I’ll admit it: I fell for the exotic mangosteen on the box, considering that I’d never heard of the fruit. Apparently, mangosteens are rare and quite delicious, according to Wikipedia, but are also quite harmful to one’s system if taken in large quantities. I am very familiar with peaches so I do expect a smooth blended taste that will not crowd out the other ingredients in the tea. Kudos, by the way, to Lipton for coming up with these tea blends. If it wasn’t for them, I never would have known about the mangosteen. Cheers!

I can hear my kettle boiling over while I am typing this out and I admit that I am curious to try this new green tea….. just prepared my cup and the scents of peach and the mangosteen (I am assuming) are quite clear. My mouth is tickled to try this tea. The liquid is a bright yellow, peaking my curiosity even more. I just sniffed my cup a second time after taking out the tea bag and my nose still detects the peach and definitely something else – almost a coconut, grassy smell. Perhaps that is the green tea Lipton used but I’ll find out shortly when I have my first sip. Right now, however, my cup is too damn hot.

First Sip – First sip was faint at best, so I plunged my tea bag back into the still fragrant liquid, hoping that I did not leave it in there long enough. A few minutes later, I removed the tea bag and took several more sips. The taste is still faint but it is pleasing to my taste buds. I could taste the peach and the “other” fruity taste that I would assume is the mangosteen. This is definitely a spring/summer tea to be enjoyed both hot and/or cold. Now that the tea has cooled down somewhat, the scent is still strong while the actual flavour and taste of the tea is light and airy. Not bad but not a strong flavoured tea.

Rating – B

Happy Cups!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Remembrance - A Poem

I wrote this poem for my grandfather's funeral.

I look down at my feet and see that now
There is only one set for footprints.
I must carry on, for my own sake
Because he would have wanted it that way.
Each step claims to be heavier than the last;
Each mile professes to be harder than the last
And yet I still walk on, never giving in
To the doubts that exist.
My skin is tough but strong under the sun,
My eyes still focused after all these years
And my mind is still sharp, a trait he gave me
So long ago.
With every step, I say goodbye to him,
With every breath, I proclaim his name.
I look down and still see
The single set of footsteps;
A sign that my Life has barely begun.
And still, though I now walk alone,
I can feel his breath upon me, cooling my skin
And protecting my eyes.
Here was his life, in good and bad,
Here was his mark among so many others
That failed to dim or crack under the weight of the world.
With every step, I shall never forget him.
With every breath, I shall remember him,
With every Life, his memory shall live on.

Tea Taste - Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Spice

It is 8:20 at night and I am currently editing my publisher’s collection of short stories soon to be published. This is probably the third time I have read these stories and of course, I have to have a cuppa tea. After becoming a member of the Dixon Art Gallery and Gardens earlier today, I decided to celebrate my new membership by purchasing a box of Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange Spice. In my years of drinking tea, I have never had this blend before, although I have seen it many times in grocery stores. Today, however, proves to be the day when I stop walking by it and actually purchase it.

After adding the water to the tea bag, my nose detected cinnamon and oranges; this is going to be quite a nice cup. Celestial Seasonings is one of the better tea companies and even though most of their blends are herbal, they are still quite tasty and still quite good for you. The ingredients in the Mandarin Orange Spice are: orange peel, hibiscus, roasted chicory, blackberry leaves, chamomile (to help with relaxation and sleep), hawthorn berries, cinnamon (obviously), natural mandarin orange flavour with other natural flavours, cloves and coriander.

First Sip – I instantly tasted oranges spiked with cinnamon without it being too much. The next sip gives off the flavour of coriander while blending quite nicely with the other ingredients. However, the overall flavour is not that strong. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I did not put too much sugar in my cup so as to be able to taste the tea and not just sweetness. The more I sip it, the better I like it but the overall flavour of the tea is not strong. This tea is meant to be prepared after a meal. Also, this tea would be better enjoyed in the afternoon rather than in the morning (in my humble opinion). Overall, I am glad I purchased the tea and it will make a nice addition to my growing collection but I think I will add a little more sugar to my next cup.

Rating: B

Happy Cups!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tea Taste - Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger Tea

It is 10:46 on a Saturday night and I am at home, debating on whether or not to do my laundry. Yes, I have such an exciting life. However, today was quite a day for my family and me; my grandfather passed away last week and my mother and grandmother were on a cruise for a week while the event took place. My father was in Minnesota for business. I was the only one here within the immediate family to handle the news of his passing. For days, I wondered about how they were going to handle it while still knowing that they needed to be told. So, when they arrived from New Orleans, I drove to my grandparents’ house, ready to do my part. However, things never turn out how we may plan them in our minds; my family handled the news really well and prepared his funeral, wake and repast all within a couple of hours. That alone was proof enough for me that the women in the family are strong individuals and thank the gods I take after them (grin).

In any case tonight, I have decided not to do laundry, saving that enjoyable experience for Sunday. However, I just prepared a cup of Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger Herbal Tea; a blend I have not had in quite some time. As soon as I opened the box, I could smell the hibiscus and peppermint and knew that my first cup tonight would be a good one.

Do you have a tea that just soothes and calms your soul? I have several – Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime (great while reading at night!), Red Zinger, good ol’ chamomile tea, and any of my white teas. At night, my taste buds have simmered down somewhat and my body looks forward to resting in my bed so adding a calming tea is nothing short of pleasant. I may be a fuddy duddy, but I know what I like: reading a book while drinking tea.

So tonight, I shall enjoy my cup of Red Zinger and dedicate the first sip to my grandfather; although he was not a tea drinker, I shall miss him terribly and hope that he knows just how much I loved him.

Happy Cups!

Book Review - The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett

When I think of the word “bibliophile”, I automatically think of myself. In my apartment are five bookcases filled to the brim with books of every subject and genre. Reading (and now writing) books has been a passion of mine since my family took me to the library on Saturdays when I was a child. The feel of the books piled up in my hands, the smell of the old paper, glue and boards that made the books plus the smell of the library itself still linger with me today. I remember going to the main library when it was located on Peabody and McLean and how it smelled every time I walked through those doors. Libraries and bookstores are my home away from home. Even now, I would much rather spend my money on books than clothing, shoes, jewelry or anything else like that. I have even scraped together change from the bottom of my messenger bag to purchase a book. So yes, I take full claim in calling myself a bibliophile. However, that is where I draw the line. Although I adore my addiction, I would never cross the legal line in obtaining my passion. Others, however, would have no problem in doing such a thing. Take John Gilkey, for example, the subject of Allison Hoover Bartlett’s non-fiction book The Man Who Loved Books Too Much. Gilkey was a man who adored books so much that he would steal them from bookstores and book fairs, then turn around and sell some of them to make a profit. He would even go so far as to obtain credit card numbers (back when the numbers were printed on receipt slips) and call in his orders to antiquarian book dealers all over the country, then pick them up claiming he was a “friend” of the person who placed the order. His activities stumped many a book dealer until bookseller Ken Sanders, the “bibliodick” made it his personal mission to track down the thief and deliver an appropriate amount of justice to Gilkey.
While Bartlett conducted research for this novel, she spent a great deal of time speaking to both Sanders and Gilkey, even going so far as to walk with Gilkey into one of the bookstores that he stole from. His reasons for stealing the collectible books were because they were priced too high for the common man to obtain, and that he loved books just that much and it was his right and duty to “acquire” them for his personal library. Sanders, along with other antiquarian book dealers felt otherwise, claiming that although he may have loved books, stealing them was unfair to those who would have obtained the books through legal means, i.e., purchase them with their own money. Even some of the book dealers Bartlett interviewed questioned her own motives in following and speaking to the book thief, wondering if perhaps she was in on the scam as well. Although there has been much debate as to her ethics while gathering research for this novel and if she romanticized Gilkey while building him up more as a passionate lover of books than just a petty thief, Bartlett does a fantastic job in conveying both sides of the book world: those who sell the highly prized books, and those who would do anything to obtain them, both legally and illegally. Bartlett, being a reader herself, reveals the world of collecting books to those on the outside; people who would never consider going to great lengths in obtaining a first edition Ernest Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald. She even begins to collect books after she receives a highly collectible work from a friend who forgot to return it to the library after years of having it. Although she does not fully plunge into the world of collecting books, she still appears to show an appreciation for it – the passion that both Sanders and Gilkey feel for their books is apparent. When I finished reading the book, I wondered if Gilkey was still out there stealing books for his collection or if perhaps he turned a new leaf and purchased them like everyone else, or if he was behind bars for good. One thing that I know for certain, though, is that once bitten by the bibliophile bug, one stays that way for the rest of their life. Right or wrong, a bibliophile is still a bibliophile, giving into their literary passions to satisfy that endless need, no matter how extreme our passions may drive us.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Review - A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway is one of those writers in which he writes for the common man; there are no lofty words or “higher planes of existence” in his books. His descriptions are simple and to the point and yet they carry such a weight that it is almost easy to forget that you are merely reading the book instead of actually listening to him speak. My first dance with Hemingway was the book The Sun Also Rises; immediately, I wanted to pack up a bag and fly to Paris to see if I too would experience Paris in that same way. Would I, as a writer, come to love (and loathe) the City of Lights like he did? Would I also be able to stomach watching a bullfight in Spain as he did?
So, it came as no surprise to me, then, when I began reading A Moveable Feast years later that I fell in love with not only his words but also Paris and the Lost Generation all over again. Here we see Hemingway, or Hemi as people called him, along with his first wife Hadley and their son living in Paris and living the life of a poor but artistically inclined family. Along the way, he meets up and drinks with F. Scott Fitzgerald and his insane wife Zelda, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and others while walking through the streets, writing furiously at cafes while eating at a bare minimum, and living the life of a true expatriate. There was not one moment wasted in his life; he saw fit to do whatever whenever he liked for it was all part of why he was in Paris.
After devouring the book in one day, I found myself wondering just why reading Hemingway during this time was profoundly different than when I read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer a couple of months ago. I first read Miller when I was in university, wide eyed and bushytailed, eager to take on the world while reading everything I could get my hands on. Miller was a writer who pushed the envelope to the edge then, with a wink and a smile, threw it over without giving a damn if anyone cared enough to look. I admired him and his frank words; he explored every possible sensation while living as a poor writer in Paris and it seemed to never be enough. However, when I read it again many years later, I found myself not being able to finish it. Why? The words were the same, the manuscript had not changed, so why was it that I could not go beyond 70 pages of Miller while I devoured Hemingway in one night? Both lived in Paris around the same time; both were writers; both loved and hated the city. There may not be an exact answer but I do know this: Hemingway’s words flowed smoothly across my brain like a cool glass of water, even when he talked about certain subjects such as trying to explain to Fitzgerald that size does not matter, only how a man uses it, or when he consistently and humourously insults a literary critic while sitting in a café. While Miller was, as I discovered later, like running through a rocky patch of road that somehow still felt pretty good to do, Hemingway was like sailing on a lake with a bump every now and then. I felt I could understand Hemingway better now that I am older and more “seasoned” than when I was in my 20s and had no idea just what I wanted to be when I grew up. Perhaps that is what Miller felt as well when he wrote his tomes of excellence, for they are still wonderful books that perhaps I shall try to read again later down my own road of life. For now, however, let me sit in a quiet café in Paris, sipping on a cup of tea or perhaps something stronger, and watch a young man two tables away from me furiously write out his words in a journal, watching him pour his very essence into what would later become his gifts to the world – “I’ve seen you, beauty, and you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for and I never see you again, I thought. You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Review - A Minor Tide by Robin Beeman

“No man is an island.”

Truer words ne’er spoken; no matter much one may want to be apart from the world, the reality is that they never truly are. We, whether we like it or not, affect many who know us well or those who don’t even know who we are. Sally, the main character in Robin Beeman’s novella A Minor Tide, lives (and dies) up to that quote. After her car and body are found off a cliff on a highway north of San Francisco, the rest of the novella is told in the voices of those that knew her well and not so well: her sister Mattie and Mattie’s husband (and Sally’s lover) Evan, Joel (another of Sally’s lovers) and his ex-wife, Anna. With each chapter, the reader is given pieces of Sally’s life, a life filled with alcohol and low self-esteem while providing more questions than answers in trying to explain just why she died or perhaps killed herself.
To be honest, I had never heard of the author until I picked up the slim volume at a library book sale; I was drawn to the picture of crashing waves on the cover. The synopsis on the inside flap of the book interested me somewhat until I finally read the book weeks later. Instantly, I was drawn in by Evan’s words at the beginning and immediately, I felt as though I had known him for years. Beeman’s words make you feel as though you had just stopped at Mattie and Evan’s house for a cup of tea on a lazy Saturday, not knowing of the tragedy they were about to tell you. When I opened the book, I sat rooted to the couch and then later in my cubicle at work during my lunch break, wondering just what kind of person Sally was and why I should even care about her. Strangely enough, I wanted to care about her through her sister and lovers. I wanted to take their loss and recently discovered regrets and make them my own until the end of the book. These are not just characters one would read about and then immediately walk away from. Long after I closed the book, I could smell the ocean water as it hit the rocks far bellow the California highway. I wanted to place a hand on Joel’s arm once he heard about Sally’s death, knowing that he would need at least a shoulder to cry on. I wanted to talk to Anna after she met her ex-husband’s lover for the first time, asking her how she was able to do it. And later still, I wanted to make Mattie a cup of tea and let her know that it would be okay while she dealt with her own inner demons that suddenly came to light after her sister’s death. Beeman made me want to care, because she apparently did when she wrote the novella; it is just that obvious. This is more than just a novella; this is a slice of life in a place far enough to be considered foreign to most and yet we the readers can feel a sense of understanding when someone we know suddenly leaves our lives for good. No man is an island and quite honestly, would anyone want their life to be that? I know I would not.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sonnet - On His Blindess by John Milton

John Milton. 1608–1674

318. On His Blindness

WHEN I consider how my light is spent
E're half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide,
Lodg'd with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, least he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd,
I fondly ask; But patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best, his State
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o're Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tea Taste - Japanese Sencha

Japanese Sencha is green tea that is made from dried leaves that have not been ground up, giving the tea (in my opinion) a more intense flavour than other green teas without being too bitter or overpowering. I purchased my box of 100 Sencha tea bags at Great China Food Mart here in Memphis, TN (such a cool place!) for $3.25. This was my first time trying Japanese Sencha, although I have tried Japanese Matcha before. Japanese Matcha, for those of you who don’t know, is tea made from powered tealeaves. The taste is quite strong and bitter but it still has a great flavour. I had the pleasure of drinking Japanese Matcha at a Japanese Tea Ceremony at the Matsuri Japanese Festival in Phoenix, AZ (awesome city!)

When I made my first cup of Sencha, the liquor began as a pale green that slowly changed to a golden green colour while giving off a clean scent with a touch of green (slightly like hay but lighter). Usually, I let my tea bags steep between 204 minutes, but I found that you could let the bag stay in a bit longer without causing the tea to go bitter.

First Sip – All I could think of was mellow and relaxation with a fresh taste in a good way. There were also hints of a fruit like essence that I found to be quite pleasing. Although I have not tried it yet, this tea would be good without any sugar. This tea is a nice alternative to regular green tea; sometimes green tea is too harsh for me with a strong taste of hay.

Japanese Sencha, or at least the kind I purchased, is a nice and welcomed change. I have already given it a nickname – Hippie Tea. Every single time I drink it, I feel extremely relaxed and just darn happy. Of course, I feel that way when I drink any kind of tea, but this one is special.

Rating – A+

Happy Cups!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tea Taste - The Republic of Tea 100% White Tea with Honeysuckle

For the record, let me state that I am a lover of all things from The Republic of Tea; I have not been disappointed with any of my purchases either directly through them or through a grocery store. This company takes the time to carefully select the finest ingredients to make blends of tea that will soothe one’s palate and/or mind and I thank them gratefully for it. Being an author while having a full time job can sometimes weigh down on the mind, body, and soul, so a good cup of tea can do the trick to alleviate stress while getting back in focus. In short, the Republic of Tea is one of my happily admitted weaknesses. In fact, I just ordered another canister of tea from them that will be reviewed sometime in the not too distant future.

White Tea, according to many studies, is supposed to have the highest levels of antioxidants and is also a major supporter in boosting one’s immune system. It is also the most delicate of teas, since the most delicate parts of the camellia sinensis is carefully plucked and used to make white tea. The tea used in this particular blend comes from China’s Fujian province, located on the SE coast of the country -

When I purchased this tea some time ago, I made sure that the leaves steeped in water for a maximum of 40 seconds; any longer than that and the tea becomes quite bitter while the liquid is a funny shade of gold. This liquid should be the colour of light honey while smelling faintly of clean grass and honeysuckle. This is a good tea to drink during the spring and summer months since it is so delicate and will not weigh heavily on the stomach. It’s also good to drink either in the morning or in the afternoon, depending on your mood.

First Sip: After letting my tea bag steep for 40 seconds, I remove the bag, do my appropriate “tea ritual”, then take a quick sip. The flavor, as mentioned before, is truly quite delicate and refreshing, while the honeysuckle is apparent but not overpowering. This tea, when prepared properly, has a no brainer simple good taste and a chance to momentarily pause from the day’s chores to relax and “get quiet”. This is a good “get quiet” tea. The honeysuckle reminds me of a childhood memory; when, at a young age, I used to take honeysuckle blossoms and drink the small but delicious nectar. The taste lingered on my tongue even after my last flower for the day; thanks to Republic for re-creating such a delightful taste. My cup is now empty and I am wondering if I should prepare another cup. Maybe. Possibly. I probably will (smile).
Rating: A+

For the record, although I have written only three tea reviews so far, I hope that the people who are reading my words will go out and try these blends either in mild curiosity or adding to their own “library” of tea. I am a passionate person when it comes to two things – books and tea – so I hope that my words of insight on blends I have discovered will affect you, the readers, in a similar fashion. Thanks for reading and look forward to my next review of books and tea soon!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tea Taste - Numi Chocolate Puerh Tea

I have recently begun reading the Dystopian classic 1984 by George Orwell and so far, I am overwhelmed with questions and thoughts regarding this possible future of mankind. Are we destined to exist under the watchful eye of Big Brother or perhaps something more optimistic? Who knows but I am only 100 pages into the novel; I am sure my questions will either cease or continue (probably the latter).

In the meantime, my cup of freshly made Numi Chocolate Puerh Tea sits on my computer desk, sending forth its scents of chocolate and spices. According to Numi, Puerh tea has been reported to “support healthy metabolism and boost energy, help with weight management, improve circulation and digestion, and help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Puerh tea is an ancient fermented healing tea with a deep malty flavour and 32% more antioxidants than green tea”.

Wow. Simply wow.

Numi Tea has also offered a challenge to people who order their Puerh teas: try it for two weeks to notice that one’s life(and health) will change for the better.

Well, I could never resist a decent challenge. I throw down my purple glove at the feet of Numi Tea and say, “You’re on. Bring it.”

First Sip: I can smell chocolate and spices in my cup, so this is a good sign. My first two quick sips (the tea is still hot) remind me of a weak hot chocolate with a bit of a kick. Wow, the third sip has me convinced: I like it! Apparently, this puerh blend is used in place of coffee in the morning. I can honestly see why. It’s really, really good! The spices are apparent without being too much and the hint of chocolate is just enough as to tease my tongue with promises of more if I just continue drinking the cup. Excellent replacement for coffee; sometimes I do enjoy a good cup of the java from time to time. However, I can see myself drinking more of this puerh blend than coffee. Have coffee and I finally parted ways for good? It might appear to be that way.

I have also ordered a box of Numi’s Magnolia Puerh Tea which is supposed to be a blend of green and black teas plus added flavours. I’ll save that one for another review but I did sneak a cuppa last night – WOW.

Rating: A+

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tea Taste - Lipton Green Tea Superfruit Purple Acai and Blueberry

Being a lover of tea, it does not take much to persuade me into purchasing a “new” blend of tea. It can be packaging, the description, the tea company or what is inside of that little bag. So it was that I had no problem in purchasing Lipton’s Superfruit Green Tea with Purple Acai and Blueberry. In all honesty, I am not too hyped up on the whole “ superfruit” thing but I could always be wrong. Tea, on the whole, is good for you no matter what kind you drink. So, while I am typing out my first tea rating blog entry, my cup of the tea in question sits next to my hands, waiting for me to enjoy the first sip. Although I love purchasing and drinking tea, I also make sure that I give out bags to my fellow tea lovers both here at work and while I am out and about in Memphis. Sharing tea, in my humble opinion, is a good way to make new friends, reestablishing connections old ones, and teaching newbies about the ways of the camellia sinensis. I guess this is why I have begun blogging about my own tea experiences; perhaps someone out there will take my advice(or not) and begin their own life of a Tea drinker.
Lipton, to some tea lovers, is not seen as a serious tea company; to them, anything that is so mass produced and so readily available is not worth the hot water and sweetener. I tend to disagree; tea is tea no matter whose label is on the box or on the bag. I have had Lipton’s teas before and have not been disappointed yet. Hopefully that will be the case with this green tea blend for I must admit that I am kind of intrigued as to how the flavor will be. Too fruity or too grassy? I’ll let my tongue decide.
First Sip: Although the tea’s colour is of a pale gold, the taste is actually not bad. The blueberry was not overpowering but could not place my finger on the acai; I do find it amusing, however, that although acai is part of the title, it is not listed as one of the ingredients unless if you count the “flavours from natural sources” as being the acai part. With every sip, I can taste more and more of the blueberry mixed with the standard delicate green but still no acai. I have had teas with acai as one of the ingredients and the taste of the Amazonian fruit was quite evident. However, not so much here but the tea still has a good flavor and it is a blend that I will purchase again in the not too distant future.

Rating: B+

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Book Review - For All The Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favourite Drink and Changed History by Sarah Rose

Tea is considered to be the second most popular beverage in the world after water. In today’s world, the choices are endless: almost anyone can have black tea, red tea or rooibos, sacred but still satisfying white tea, and even the popular green tea. Tea companies now create blended flavours to satisfy even the most discriminating of palates, and even iced tea has come a long way in its chic and admiration by hot and thirsty people. Yet, tea has a dirty, murderous, and unsavoury history, one that not too many people know about while reading their history books in school. Sarah Rose, author of the book For All The Tea In China: How England Stole the World’s Favourite Drink and Changed History, shed some light on this past for all to see and perhaps appreciate their morning cup of Earl Grey a little more. Within the pages of this slim book is the story of a Scottish botanist named Robert Fortune and his tale of how he both initially unsuccessfully and finally successfully shipped camellia sinensis from China to his beloved England amid opium wars, backhanded deals, and growing tensions between England, China, and India through the highly powerful East India Company. It is a story of how one man braved the highly stacked odds to give his fellow Brits a taste of the East through a cuppa.
As a journalist, Rose adds her own appreciation for the East by making her work not only a book about the history of tea but also a book of traveling to exotic lands and the desire with it. One feels as though they are standing next to Fortune and his Chinese assistants as they travel deeper into the heart of China in search of rare tea specimens for the glory of England. One can smell the breezes scented with fragrant flowers only found in China as well as the scent of unwashed or opium soaked bodies, the mud and blood from the sick and dying. Rose also does a thorough job in showing the readers the tensions between the British and everyone else; to them, they were seen as the top of the evolutionary chain amid the “savages” of India and China even though it was the Chinese that had a far superior civilization, philosophy and way of life, not to mention that what the British so desperately wanted was literally in their back yard. The Chinese thought so little (or much?) of the British that they even laced their shipped out green tea with a poison that made the tea “look” green for its British customers (why the British drink more black than green tea today). Even the Americans wanted a part of the tea craze since the Boston Tea Party but due to mitigating circumstances, remained far behind everyone else in their mad dash to China and later India and the creation of Darjeeling teas, considered to be the “champagne” of all teas (and it is!). This is not just a history book but also a travel guide to the past that romanticized and realistically showed a peek into a world that thankfully no longer exists. Thanks to Rose, I now understand the importance of the Silver Needle White tea that I drink on a daily basis and why, yet again, the craze for all things tea has surged again with the Americans now leading the race. Thanks to men like Robert Fortune, people can now have their cup of Darjeeling without fear of war but rather a newfound respect for the leaves that assist in reaching their liquid paradise.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Review - On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road was an experience I placed late in my life as a reader. For some reason, the thought of reading about a young man’s travels across the United States did not seem all that interesting. Thanks, however, to an exhibit that recently opened at the National Gallery of Art feating photographs taken by Allen Ginsberg featuring his fellow Beats, I decided to read the infamous work with eyes and mind wide open. Now, after having read the book, I know understand the influence the Beat Generation had on society, with American Youth as its core. This was a novel that broke the boundaries of life and yet still maintained a sense of style and grace that cannot be matched today. Within the 307 page novel are the travels, mistakes and lessons learned, and literally mind blowing discoveries made by the two main characters, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty. Sal, a soon to be college student and author of a novel, tags along with his Midwestern buddy Dean in their search for something greater and more meaningful than the life they were shown to live. Reading this work as a woman living in the year 2010, I could not help but wonder if such an adventure could be duplicated now. Could a group of people with hardly any money or food, drive from one coast to the other, all the while focusing on the world around them and just what it had to offer? Could any of us, in our day to day lives, ever stop to ask the question, “what if?” Kerouac’s writing style adds to the overall mood of the novel: a rushing feeling to get to the next place, the next sensation, the next place of enlightenment. During their travels, they “experience” the cities of Denver, New Orleans (my personal favourite scene), San Francisco, New York and others, with even a dip into Mexico in pushing the envelope further. While Sal is taking it all in with an air of wonder and general curiosity, Dean inhales it like cigarette smoke and refuses to breathe it out. He descends downward into a pool of maniacal madness while still trying to take it all in and asking for more. There is never a sensation too rough, a feeling to extreme, or an adventure too exotic for him. He lives simply to live and that is enough. For example, while in Denver after accepting a ride from a gay man, Dean says in a fit of frustration after talking and learning more about him, “You see, man, it’s better not to bother. Offer them what they secretly want and they of course immediately become panic-stricken.” What Sal and Dean want in life is offered and they take it without question, a concept that not everyone could understand or share during their time. Kerouac, along with other creatives that made up the Beat Generation, wondered what if and decided to find their own answers their own way. The answers came with a heavy price but in the end, one must wonder if it was worth it. Kerouac died of his addiction to alcohol in 1969 at the age of 47; were his experiences enough to justify his death? In my own opinion I say yes. While it is easy to read of adventures while wondering what it would be like, they simply lived. As Kerouac puts it so well in the first chapter, “Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.”

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Poem - Les Eaux Noires

Les Eaux Noires

Do you like John Keats,
I wonder while kissing you.
Salt and sweet flesh
Prepare me for something greater.
You are of darkness and yet
It tickles my chin.
Honeyed tongue gives me no mercy,
But only pleasure that blinds me.
Fallen, I wonder if it is true
And still I smell the sulfur
Wrapped longingly around your body.
Keats could have been your Muse
If you were only so young;
I am smarter than that.
I want to deny you and yet I can not
For your lips I have yet to feel.
Today I discovered you in my mind
Sitting contentedly like a satisfied cat.
I still want to experience you
Knowing that will cause my death.
Fellow aesthetic are you,
Seducing me with candied words
And phrases developed by sybaritic gods.
I know I should expect more than this
As my desires knows no bounds.
I am lost because of you.
Dark Hades, claim my soul.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Viridian Girl Goes to Phoenix


In three days time, yours truly will be traveling to the Grand Canyon State - ARIZONA! For one week, I will be sampling the local cuisine, taking many photos, visiting the Grand Canyon, and just enjoying myself during an overdue vacation and break from the hectic rat race.

I will also be writing like mad in my journal and will post certain entries on my blog when I return, along with accompanying pictures for your own benefit.

I have never been to Phoenix before, let alone a desert area, so this will be quite the experience for me. I have no idea what to expect and that is a good thing. Although I did plan to do and see many things in the Phoenix area, I will also take time out to just sit in a bookstore or cafe, drink many cups of tea, and observe.

Life, I have found, is too short for me to wonder What If; rather than just talk about doing things, I simply do them. I never thought that I would be traveling to Phoenix but in three days time, that impossible idea will become a reality.

Take care all and I'll see you in March!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Appalachian Gothic With a Touch of Bloodroot

Amy Greene is a storyteller. As obvious as that may sound, keep in mind that it is a goal that not every writer accomplishes. Many writers do write well but very few are actual storytellers; that is, they have the ability to weave people, places, and events into a mixture that will keep the readers wanting more. They give their blood to the story and the result is more than just words. The novel Bloodroot is one such example; within the 291 page book is a story that most people have never heard of but are quickly drawn in after reading the first page. The readers are introduced to a variety of characters that are linked to one another through the main catalyst of the novel, a young woman by the name of Myra Jean Lamb whose hair is blacker than midnight and eyes are the blue of Heaven. Myra causes the other characters to do rational and irrational things in their life due to her ability of the Touch. She is a wild spirit; a being that can never be captured by anyone. She is like the wind and all who try to subdue her become worse for the wear. Even her husband, John Odom, realizes his mistake too late in trying to keep her submissive to his whiskey soaked ways. He beats her, drags her by the hair to the storage shed for several days of lockup, and she still finds a way to leave him that involves the chopping off of several of his fingers.
Bloodroot Mountain is a place filled with wise and wild women and men, and destines that, once cast upon the wind, cannot be altered. Love blooms like the bloodroots on the mountain and it is just as poisonous to those who are daring enough to feel the power behind it. The people that live in this area are simple folks and yet their words ring with something deeper than what most of us could hope for. Their eyes give a glimpse of life decorated with moonshine, raven black hair, curses, and cruel yet loving Nature. Author Amy Greene lives in the foothills of East Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, a place that is also her birth home; one can tell just how much the area means to her through this novel. This is one of the few novels that could be orally passed down from generation to generation, keeping the history of a family alive with more than waterlogged journals.
Bloodroot is an oral novel and Amy Greene does a phenomenal job of it; you can hear the muffled voice of Doug Cotter speaking about his love for Myra and how it will never be satisfied. Myra’s grandmother, Byrdie Lamb, is a proud woman who knows of her granddaughter’s coming while viewing a myrtle induced fire one night; her voice speaks with intent and lessons learned of herself, her wild daughter Clio, and Myra. We also get to hear from Myra’s twin children, Johnny and Laura, born with their mother’s likeness and wildness and how they must adapt to their life after their mother is locked up in an asylum, as well as the author and wanderer Ford Hendrix who has the power of visions, seeing his own life strand intermingled in Myra’s and her son’s lives. Bloodroot is not to be trifled with, for its roots are deeper than we imagine. The blood red sap flows down the mountain and those who come into contact with it are irrevocably affected.